Your Only Knot: The Four-In-Hand

“A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” —Oscar Wilde

What tie knot do you prefer? Well, really no matter, because you only need one (excepting the bow, of course). It is simple, the simplest, and it looks the best. You need the old school-boy tie: the four-in-hand.

A bit rakish in its elongated asymmetry, the four-in-hand brings to the ensemble that bit of irregularity that adds rather than subtracts. It is unnecessary to remember the arcana of twists and turns that separate the half-Windsor from the Windsor from the Shelby. The four-in-hand can be tied in seconds then forgotten with the confidence that all is well.

There is some confusion as to the four-in-hand’s origination. Some argue the knot goes back to carriage drivers who used it to hold the horses’ reins. Historical confidence of origin is lost, but it is the knot that the most elegant men have used for a century.

Ah, but I like to tie a symmetrical knot the size of my head, one that reaches halfway down my stomach, objects the partisan of the Windsor. And don’t I need to fill up all this space left by my spread collar? ‘Tis a myth. You don’t need to “fill up” any space regardless of the collar.

“Why yes, it is a four-in-hand with a spread collar.”

It is well to note that not even the eponymous Duke of Windsor used the Windsor knot or its fractional variants. His collateral descendant Prince Charles, perhaps the best dressed man in the world, would never consider a knot other than the four-in-hand.

Say goodbye to your double-mocha half-caff Windsor. Embrace the simplicity of the four-in-hand. Your life will be easier, and you’ll look better.


Watch Bernhard Roetzel, author of the fun book Gentlemen, teach you with a German accent how to tie a four-in-hand.


After you enjoy that, watch the folks from T.M. Lewin for clearer instruction with an English accent.

5 thoughts on “Your Only Knot: The Four-In-Hand

  1. You look very nice in the picture (I’m assuming it’s you.)

    I use that knot with button downs and usually use half (not baseball sized) Windsors with other collars. The four-in-hand is one of the nicer knots.

  2. I’m afraid I must disagree with the assertion that the four-in-hand is the only necktie knot a man needs to know. Those of us who are (ahem) “vertically challenged” will often find that the four-in-hand does not use enough tie, and using this knot leaves the tie dangling far too low. The half Windsor uses more tie and produces a small(ish) knot, and so is often a better option for the untall man.

    The other options are to wear vintage ties, which are often shorter than modern ones, or to get ties custom made. Not everyone will find these options appealing, however.

  3. Repp Stripe. Have you tried doing a double four-in-hand, wrapping the tie blade once more around before forming the knot? I use this for ties that are stretched and thus too long. It makes for a more interesting and still rakish knot.

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